Strengthening Is Not The Final Solution

Many runners just run; they don’t do any strength work. A number of reasons exist for that, but regardless of the reason, strength work is often not being done. 

Once a runner is injured, then the strength work might begin, which is a great thing. The body often needs to be stronger in order to resolve injuries and minimize future injury risk. At times, adding in strength work will completely resolve the issues, but many times it doesn’t. It is not uncommon to see an injured runner add in strength work just to have the injury issue remain. 

Let’s talk about the reasons that happens… 

Wrong Exercises for YOU 

Anyone can go onto Google or YouTube, search ‘exercises for ____’, and pull up hundreds of exercises to do. You do that and pick out four or five that you think would be good to work on and do them religiously for monthswithout any change in your pain. 

The problem with this method is what people aren’t telling you when you use that method is that there are a lot of reasons for pain to occur in any area of the body…. 

Let’s take knee pain for example. Knee pain could be due things such as lacking foot control, lacking ankle control or mobility, hip weakness, referred pain from the back, running technique faults…and the list could go on. If you make an assumption that your issue is weak glutes and strengthen those, but the problem is actually in the foot, your issue is not going to go away. 

Until you figure out specifically what is causing your pain, you may be wasting your time with the strength exercises you are doing. 

Compensations 

Our bodies are GREAT at compensating! The brain and body want to be efficient and conserve energy, so the body will always take the ‘past of least resistance’ if you let it. Even as a coach, I have to pay attention with certain exercises because my body wants to compensate. 

When it comes to strengthening exercises, if you don’t realize you are compensating, you will continue to strengthen those compensation patterns. It doesn’t mean you are completely wasting your time with the exercises you are doing, but when the body is compensating it is not getting the full benefit and purpose out of the exercise. 

Let’s take a heel raise for example. You raise up on your toes and come back. Sounds easy, right? On the surface, yes, that is what is happening. On a deeper level, when you raise up you want to make sure you have equal weight distribution throughout the ball of the foot, you want to be able to move slowly and control the weight shift that is happening during the movement, you want to keep the toes engaged with the ground both on the way up AND on the way down (but do so without curling your toes). Much harder to do with that explanation, right? 

Compensations like that can (and do) happen with any and all possible movements. Take time to discover what your body is doing for compensations for your movements if you want full benefit out of your strengthening exercises. 

No Carryover 

Our bodies are great at remembering patterns and unless we do something to train new patterns, the old ones will remain. That means once you improve your strength, your body needs to learn how to control itself with that new strength. 

What do I mean? You can do isolated strength work all you want, but unless you train the body how to use that strength, your faulty movement patterns will remain. 

A hip drop in a runner is a great example. A hip drop is a common issue found with a running analysis. Once found, either by the runner or a clinician, the glutes get strengthened through various exercises…and that’s where things typically stop. What needs to happen is the brain needs to create new patterns with that strength. Rather than just strengthening the hips, running drills to teach the body how to keep the pelvis level while running is also necessary. If you strengthen without retraining, many times the carryover to running will not happen. 

Have you been strengthening due to an injury but not seeing the results? Perhaps one of these reasons is your issue. Want help sorting things out?  Schedule a free call with Dr. Brianne Showman to help you figure out where your issues are and what to do about them. 

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